8°: Complete but complex collation: i-xii, [1, title], xiii, 551 pp., xiv-xxvi, plus 2 colour lithographed folding maps, bound in original red cloth covers with title and cartographic design gilt-stamped to front cover; plus, small 12 pp. ‘Supplement to Official Handbook’ loosely inserted in pocket inside back cover (Good, textblock clean, first few pages a little loose, ‘Marobe Goldfields’ map with some light foxing and a very minor closed tear; binding with some fading to spine).
This fascinating work is probably the most informative single book regarding the Territory of New Guinea, then ruled as an Australian mandate (but today the northern half of Papua New Guinea), a region of exotic wildlife, extraordinary native peoples and vast natural resources. It is the first edition of the official handbook to the territory published in 1937 in Canberra for the Australian Government, predicated upon the most authoritative and recent sources. The thorough work includes sections on: 1) history; 2) geography and climate; 3) natural resources; 4) Administration and commerce; 5) native peoples; 6) Christian missions; and 7) Statistics; numerous photographic illustration grace the text. Additionally, the tipped-in booklet ‘Supplement to Official Handbook’ updates a variety of critical statistics to the 1935-36 fiscal year. A second, revised edition of the handbook was issued in 1943.
Highlights of the work include the two excellent folding maps. The first map is the ‘Territory of New Guinea administered by the Commonwealth under Mandate from the League of Nations and Papua a Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia 1934.’ (measuring 34 x 49 cm), depicting the entire eastern half of New Guinea. The second map is the ‘Territory of New Guinea / Map of Morobe Goldfields’ (measuring 38 x 53 cm), showcasing the focus of a major ongoing gold rush that occurred in the far south-eastern section of the territory (areas of gold mining are coloured in yellow). The related section of the text provides an intriguing description of the mining operations.
A Brief History of New Guinea
The immense equatorial island of New Guinea was first encountered by Spanish mariners in the 16th Century, but its reef-guarded coastlines, impenetrable jungle and the hostility of some its indigenous peoples (including Head Hunters!) ensured that it was one of the last non-polar places on Earth to be colonized by Europeans. While Europeans occasionally reconnoitred and traded along its coasts over the succeeding centuries, they avoided setting down roots.
This all changed in the 1880s, during perhaps the most comprehensive period of colonialism, when various European powers were obsessed with claiming every square inch of the globe. In 1883, the British colony of Queensland, Australia, declared Papua (the south-eastern quadrant of the island) to be a part of the British Empire, and proceeded to set up outposts that would form the basis of British New Guinea. While the British government initially declared Queensland’s move illegal, by 1888, it embraced the idea, formally ratifying the colony’s charter in 1905.
In 1884, at the urging of Hamburg-based traders, the German Empire declared the regions to the north of Papua (North East New Guinea) to be German New Guinea and proceeded to set up a colony. Meanwhile, the Dutch began to colonize the western half of New Guinea (later Irian Jaya). While these European powers increasingly controlled coastal trade in their own zones, their presence in the interior was virtually non-extant, with the land still under the control of traditional tribal powers.
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Australian forces quickly seized control of German New Guinea, placing the zone under their military governance. The Treaty of Versailles (1919), which ended the war, placed North East New Guinea under Australian guardianship, via a League of Nations mandate; it was henceforth called, as here, the ‘Territory of New Guinea’. The Australian regime progressively extended their control over parts of the island, including the development of the region’s vast natural resources, although much of the interior remained under the practical auspices of indigenous powers.
During World War II, New Guinea and its associated islands saw much fighting between Australian and Japanese forces, with the former being victorious and reasserting its control. Under Australian administration the two zones were united to form ‘Papua New Guinea’ in 1949. Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975.
References: OCLC: 492711893 / 37080853.